Friday, August 29, 2014

Fiona Friday - Cat with gnome

I asked for help naming my gnome on Facebook and friends came up with some excellent names, then I completely forgot to make a decision. Since I'm posting a photo of Izzy with gnome, I'm still open to suggestions.  Also, Happy Labor Day weekend to the Americans!

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Season of the Dragonflies by Sarah Creech

Season of the Dragonflies by Sarah Creech
Copyright 2014
William Morrow - Fiction/Magical realism
Source: Sent by publisher for TLC tour

Remember on Monday when I said I had plenty of time to finish Season of the Dragonflies because my tour wasn't scheduled till the 28th? No? Well, I did, and it turned out I was looking at the wrong week of the calendar. Fortunately, I finished the book last night. Whew! Close scrape.

Season of the Dragonflies begins with the tale of Serena Lenore, how she fell deeply in love and discovered a flower called Gardenia potentiae. From the blossom, Serena created a perfume that grants its users the power to fulfill their every dream. The Lenore family fortune has grown due to careful sale of the special potion at an extraordinary price; but, true love has escaped the grasp of the youngest Lenore daughters, Mya and Lucia. After one of the famous buyers of the special elixir threatens to expose the Lenore family's secret, Mya takes a chance that Great-Grandmother Serena's threat -- that a curse will fall on the family if the formula is altered -- is an empty one.

But, even before she mixes a new formula that she hopes will solve their problem, things begin to go wrong. The flowers are not releasing the powerful scent that normally fills the town of Quartz Hollow during harvest time. Perplexed, mother and company president Willow Lenore delays the harvest while she tries to figure out what's gone wrong.

Meanwhile, Mya and Lucia are facing off. Lucia left home many years ago but Mya has always stayed, certain of her future as the next company president. Mya and Willow have the family gift in different forms but Lucia has never shown any hint of the gift at all. Now divorced, Lucia has returned home and has, for the first time in her life, seen a vision. And, it's a bad one. 

While the Lenore women deal with the threat to their business, they're also faced with new possibilities. Mya is dating a younger man who loves her but she's unsure she can ever love and commit to anyone. Lucia finds that the spark between her and the man she once loved has not gone out. Even Willow may have a second chance at love.

What is causing the changes in the flower that are making Gardenia potentiae lose its scent? Can anything be done to save the flowers or will the Lenore family lose everything they've ever worked for and cared about? 

I loved the historical chapter and then absolutely hated the first few scenes of Season of the Dragonflies. There were two types of scenes I dislike, right off the bat. It was not a good start but I DNF'd the last book I read for TLC Tours so I decided I was just going to have to force my way through Season of the Dragonflies, no matter what. But, while it was slow going, at first, eventually the promise was revealed. By the time I was 1/3 of the way into the book, the pages were absolutely flying.

Sarah Creech's writing was compared to that of one of my favorite authors, Sarah Addison Allen, in the publicity material. That was why I decided to participate in the blog tour and I was not disappointed. Although there are plenty of scenes of a type I tend to dislike in Season of the Dragonflies, the magical realism is lovely and dreadful and enthralling. I like being surprised when I open a book, so I'm not going to share any of the details but the secret to saving the family crop is wound up in something completely unexpected and yet integral to the story. It's there from the beginning and I didn't like it, at first, but I absolutely loved the solution and the denouement.

Recommended - After the initial historical scene that set the background, Season of the Dragonflies got off to a rocky start for this reader but thank goodness I didn't go for the 50-page rule and set this book aside. The farther you read, the more beguiling the story becomes; and, even elements that I normally dislike in a story ceased to make me squirm as I realized their relevance. I absolutely loved the magical touches, the characterization, and the unexpected revelations that pulled everything together at the end. It will be fun seeing what Sarah Creech comes up with, next.

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Paramédico by Benjamin Gilmour

Paramédico: Around the World by Ambulance by Benjamin Gilmour
Copyright 2012
The Friday Project (an imprint of HarperCollins)
Originally published 2011 in Australia by Pier 9 (an imprint of Murdoch Books Pty Ltd.)
Source: Purchased

Cynicism among paramedics in Australia is so entrenched that Pip James, a former lecturer at the ambulance education centre in Sydney, used to insist her students write themselves a letter immediately after employment. This letter would outline the students' motives for joining the job, the way they perceived the profession and a description of the paramedics they hoped to become. The letters were then sealed and only opened again once they had returned to the school after a year on the road. As expected, the students squirmed horribly when reading their earlier sentiments. But many also learnt how insidiously tainted they had become.

It's easier to avoid cynicism, however, when patients present with genuine and pressing needs, when the service is not abused. Ambulance workers in the West generally agree that the level of disgruntlement in their job is directly proportional to the number of time-wasters they attend. When customers call for a lift to the shops, for a drink of water, for a blanket when cold, it's no surprise. If customers reserved calling ambulances for serious injuries and acute illnesses only, frustration and cynicism among paramedics would probably decline accordingly. 

~p. 164

The purchase of Paramédico was one of those cases of "One book leads to another." First, I came across my old copy of The Paramedics and decided I wanted to read it, again, because I've been watching old reruns of the cult classic show Emergency!  Then, I happened across Rescue by Anita Shreve -- again, whilst unloading boxes of books and organizing my home library. I'm not even quite sure how I came across Paramédico, to be honest, but since I purchased it from an online bookstore I'm guessing that I just happened to be looking up something entirely different and thought, "Hmm, I wonder if there are any new titles about paramedics." It's an old obsession; I have quite a little collection of books about EMS and a handful of novels with paramedic heroes.

Paramédico is quite different from the other books I've read because it's not just about being a paramedic and what it's like; it's about the experiences of a paramedic who traveled around the world working with other paramedics, doctors, nurses and some lesser qualified medics while, at times, filming them. There's a film by the same name. I have yet to locate a DVD that will work in the U.S. but you can purchase Paramédico on demand at Vimeo, so I may give in and do that. I really would like to see the film.

The book is absolutely fascinating, as much (possibly more) from a cultural perspective as the stories of field medicine in action. After reading The Paramedics, I'd been wondering what emergency medical services are like in other countries and I could not have chosen a more fascinating peek into the differences in how ambulances are dispatched and staffed, what supplies are carried, what is expected of medics by patients in different countries. Expectation was something I had not thought about, actually, that in some places the expectation -- of pain relief or the lack of it, for example -- is completely different. Can you imagine an American accepting a vitamin shot or a valium injection for just about everything? Isn't it beyond fathoming that there's a country where the ambulances carry no drugs at all? Valium, vitamin shots, no medication, a ride on a floating ambulance that makes you queasy but lacks disposable vomit bags . . . those are options in other places.

One thing that seems to be a constant wherever you go is abuse of the system, something that baffles me because the last thing I can imagine anyone desiring is a ride in an ambulance or a visit to an emergency room, especially for no good reason. I'd have to be near death to end up in either (that's happened once -- I was in bad enough shape that I have almost no memory of it, which is fine by me).

Paramédico begins with an introduction and a chapter about the author's first posting in the Australian Outback. After you get to know the author's Australian background, he takes you on a journey around the world with stops in South Africa, England, the Philippines, Macedonia, Thailand, Pakistan, Iceland, Italy, the U.S. (Hawaii) and Mexico. His travels took place over quite a few years and it's been a few years since publication, so things may have changed in some of the countries he visited; Gilmour does make that perfectly clear. But, you still get a unique perspective on various cultures that likely have not altered much. I think that's what I loved most about the book. It had the feel of a travelogue but from a unique perspective, that of each country's emergency services.

The biggest problem most readers will probably have with Paramédico is that you need a strong stomach to read some of the medical scenes. I have no problem with that, possibly because of the stories my father used to tell about his time as a Navy Corpsman on a hospital ship. The reality is another thing entirely, I'm sure.

Highly recommended - A well-written peek into EMS in 11 different countries. Medical professionals of all kinds will appreciate the stories of situations and treatment but it's the cultural perspective that really makes Paramédico an excellent book; and, it's very well written. If you can read about messy medical situations without getting queasy, it's a book that I highly recommend.

One note: The author is not particularly complimentary to Americans. That didn't bother me. I think it's good to read about what people think of us in other countries and to get an outside viewpoint of where and how we (or the politicians who represent us) may be causing trouble for others.

Is this the last link in my latest round of chain-reading? Nope, I noticed a couple other books I'm pretty sure I haven't gotten around to reading during last week's work on the library (both novels with paramedic heroes, I think). So, I'll keep sliding in an EMS read, now and then. It will be hard to beat Paramédico. I hope Benjamin Gilmour will write more about his experiences, in the future.

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar 
Copyright 2014
Harper - General fiction
Source: Sent by publisher

The Story Hour is about an unusual relationship between a psychologist named Maggie and her patient, Lakshmi. A young woman in a seemingly abusive and confining relationship, Indian immigrant Lakshmi attempts suicide in a moment of despair. Maggie is known for her ability to work with difficult patients and for her unorthodox methods. Only she can get Lakshmi to speak. After Lakshmi's release from the hospital, Maggie has the young woman follow up with appointments at her home office, free of charge. Lakshmi clearly needs a friend more than she needs therapy but Maggie believes she can maintain emotional distance.

In spite of Maggie's efforts to remain cool and distant, Lakshmi begins to think of Maggie as her friend while Maggie encourages Lakshmi's independence and doesn't correct Lakshmi for fear of setting her progress back. Meanwhile, as Lakshmi's relationship with her husband gradually improves, Maggie is in the midst of an affair, even though she knows better. She is aware that the affair would devastate her husband if he found out and that she couldn't have chosen a better man to marry. Yet she can't seem to stop seeing the other man. When Lakshmi reveals a dark secret that changes everything Maggie understands about her and Maggie pulls away from Lakshmi, disaster strikes for Maggie.  

I had no idea how difficult it would be to describe The Story Hour till I sat down to write. There are some complexities to the relationships, all around, but I don't want to give away too much. Suffice it to say, Lakshmi's life is not quite what it seems and Maggie's childhood figures into her inability to stop seeing the "other man".

The style of storytelling is also quite interesting. Umrigar has chosen to portray Maggie and Lakshmi in alternating chapters and it's easy to tell when you're in Lakshmi's point of view because her English is astoundingly bad. You get the impression that Lakshmi is uneducated, perhaps a bit simple, and that she was forced into marriage with a terrible man, but as Lakshmi reveals her past you find out she's actually quite clever. So, how and why did she end up in such a terrible marriage?

Maggie is equally perplexing. Although she's involved in an affair, her husband could not really be more perfect. He's supportive, loving, intelligent, successful. Why would a woman in such a happy marriage have an affair? Well, you'll have to read the book to understand. Maggie is much more difficult to relate to, although her story is more straightforward. Most psychologists (at least, the ones I know) are in the business because of their own challenges and their desire to help people in similar circumstances. The same is true of Maggie, but I think you could say the cracks in her past have been covered, not mended, and therein lies the secret to her weakness.

I found myself engrossed in The Story Hour from the beginning.  Lakshmi's poor English makes for strange reading, although she's easy enough to comprehend. My only complaint about the book would have to be the chapters that are narrated by a younger Lakshmi. Because the book is written in English, even when Lakshmi is young she's narrating in the English of her adulthood -- and yet, you know by the time you hear from young Lakshmi that she is, in fact, quite intelligent. So, there's a bit of a disconnect. Why is young Lakshmi narrating in broken English? Shouldn't it be an English translation of an intelligent young Indian's perspective? That's really a writing technicality. I think it I were the author, I would have ground to a halt at that point. The fact that she made a choice to keep Lakshmi's perspective clear by not altering her mode of speech (maybe to maintain flow) probably shows the maturity of Umrigar's writing. She writes with confidence and authority, even if you feel something is a tiny bit amiss.

Recommended - I loved this story, its nuances and the changes in the characters, for better or worse. Although Lakshmi's story eventually becomes clear before it's fully revealed, it's not predictable. I thought Umrigar did a bang-up job of slowly revealing both characters' histories and then turning everything on its head. While I didn't find the ending particularly satisfying, I enjoyed The Story Hour enough to feel like I could draw my own conclusions and close the book without feeling let down, so I definitely recommend it.

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Malarkey

As a child, I used to stand on tippy-toes when I sang high notes. Isabel says it also works to look up.

I know the cat singing a high note (or, if you want to get technical, "yawning") is not book-related but I managed to clear a bookshelf specifically for ARCs, this weekend, and I don't want to drag last week's arrivals out here to photograph them. So, you get a cat photo. 

Recent arrivals:

From HarperCollins for review:

  • Insurrections of the Mind, ed. by Franklin Foer
  • The Way Inn by Will Wiles
  • Deep Shelter by Oliver Harris
  • G. I. Brides by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi
  • The Rescue at Dead Dog Beach by Stephen McGarva


  • I Have a Bad Feeling About This by Jeff Strand - sent by friend
  • The Good Girl by Mary Kubica - sent by friend
  • The Yeti Files by Kevin Sherry - from Scholastic via Shelf Awareness

Last week's posts:

I seem to be alternating weeks when it comes to quantity -- good week for reviewing, bad week, productive, unproductive. Last week was a migraine-dominated week. Some weeks I just don't feel like writing. Hopefully, this week will be a productive one.

Last week's reads:

  • How Strong is an Ant? and Other Questions about Bugs and Insects by Mary Kay Carson
  • Why is the Sea Salty? and Other Questions about Oceans by Benjamin Richmond
  • Ghost Hunting by Hawes, Friedman and Wilson

Seriously, two children's books and a quick-read book about a TV show I've never seen. Told you it was a lousy week. The children's books were great. I was underwhelmed by Ghost Hunting, although I enjoyed it enough to finish.

Currently reading:

  • Season of the Dragonflies by Sarah Creech
  • Second Form at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton
  • Spillover by David Quammen

I've had Spillover on the "currently reading" list for weeks but I didn't actually read a single page, last week. It's a great book; I will definitely finish it. I'm just not in any hurry, since it's from my personal library. Season of the Dragonflies is a book I'm reading for tour and I initially thought I was going to have to force my way through it because it began with two scenes that fall into territory I despise (stories about actors; graphic sex). However, I DNF'd my last TLC Tour book so I decided I was going to get through this one, no matter what. And, what do you know?  I started to like it about 1/3 of the way in.

Second Form at Malory Towers is a book I bought at a discount bookstore in the UK.  Having heard so many people gush about Enid Blyton being their favorite childhood author, I just grabbed one at random out of curiosity. Second Form at Malory Towers is the second in a series about 10 girls sharing a room at boarding school and it's interesting from a cultural perspective but I probably would have been better off choosing one of Blyton's adventure books -- or, possibly, paying attention to order. I do feel like I missed something by jumping to the second in the series. Maybe I can find one of her adventure books on a future visit to England.

Blog plans:

I'm hoping to review The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar, Paramédico by Benjamin Gilmour and a few children's books, this week. I'm going to skip reviewing Ghost Hunting because I don't feel like I have anything to say about it. Hopefully, this week will be an improvement over last week. So far, so good -- no migraine but it's so hot I've been looking at photos of Alaska to try to cool myself off. I may have to drag a portable fan to the desk. The air conditioner is just not enough, right now.

No TV or movies worth mentioning, this week.  We did watch the first episode of the new PBS mystery series, Breathless, starring Jack Davenport of the British Coupling. I'm not sure what I think of it, just yet.

Happy Monday!

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, August 22, 2014

*Announcement* and a grumpy cat

First things first: a grumpy cat. Cheerful as this little fur being is, she gets really pissy when I pull out the camera. 

And, the announcement . . . 

I updated my review policy in May to reflect the fact that I had a backlog of advance reader copies and was not accepting books for review. Well, that fell flat.  I have continued to request ARCs, although I am trying very hard not to be tempted. So, I decided maybe it would be best if I posted a formal announcement and here 'tis:

I will not be accepting books for review until at least January of 2015.  

Hold me to that, please, folks. There will still be some books coming (plus, I'll always accept children's books and the odd unsolicited book will be wedged in if it holds my attention) but if you notice an uptick in ARCs received, I would appreciate a verbal slap. "Hmm, you seem to be getting an awful lot of books in the mail," or "Bookfool, you are being a book glutton," would do.  It's an integrity issue. I mean well and I love the serendipity of finding new author that I never would have discovered, had his or her book not been offered to me for review (Simon Van Booy is the perfect example), but I have an "eyes are bigger than her stomach" kind of issue with books. Maybe one of those serendipitous reads is sitting in the stacks, right now. There's only one way to find out.

That's all!  Wishing everyone a happy and healthy weekend!


©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland

The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland
Copyright 2014 
Algonquin Books - General fiction
Source: Received unsolicited from publisher

I'm going to have to go ultra-casual on this one because, much as I loved The Transcriptionist and found myself wanting to immediately reread it while I was still reading, I've forgotten a few things. So . . . the Extremely Casual Thing Known as a Self-Interview is today's method of reviewing.  I will be interviewed by Patience and Fortitude, the New York Public Library lions. They're relevant.

Patience: Roar!!!

Bookfool (BF):  Hello.

Fortitude: Just so you know, we can speak Human, as well. However, we usually only do so at night, when the books come to life.

BF: Good to know. So . . . interview?

Patience:  Right. Tell us about The Transcriptionist.

BF:  OK. Lena, the protagonist, is a transcriptionist -- a person who transcribes tapes in the old-fashioned sense (listening to cassettes or VHS tapes and typing transcripts of interviews or dictated material) at the Record, a fictional New York City newspaper. When Lena sees the obituary of a blind woman who was killed by lions at the zoo in an apparent suicide, she becomes obsessed with how and why she died because she recognizes the woman's face in the photograph accompanying the obit. Just days before, she sat by the woman and spoke to her on a bus.

Fortitude: I could eat you.

BF:  Thanks for that info.

Patience:  Ignore Fortitude. What did you particularly like about The Transcriptionist?

BF: The Transcriptionist is a quirky book. Lena is the last of a dying breed, so to speak. She's the only transcriptionist left at The Record and she very seldom has the chance to interact with people. Because she's an avid reader and alone much of the time, she has a problem with talking to the pigeons outside her window and occasionally getting caught, thinking and speaking in quotes, sometimes even letting her daydreaming enter her transcription.  I also love the way the author brings New York City to life. I did a lot of googling of various locations described in the book; I love it when an author makes the setting so vivid you want to hop a plane to see the locations described in real life.  In fact, I do think I need to reread the book and take notes for future visits to New York City.

Fortitude:  Were there parts that made you want to growl or swipe?

BF: Nothing really annoyed me in a big way, apart from the fact that it took forever to figure out when exactly the story took place. Eventually, I figured out the year was 2003 . . . and then I almost immediately forgot how I came to that conclusion. There's a character who doesn't realize he's calling Lena by the wrong name and when she eventually corrects him, his reaction is kind of squirrely but the characterization is great. There are quirky people and distracted people and people with huge egos. There's a bit of a real-life feel and yet at times the book feels almost like it leans toward fable, with a character living in the building (I won't give away where he's hiding) and the strange out-of-place feel of the transcription room.

Patience:  Recommendation?

BF:  Highly recommended. While sometimes the story is a bit uncomfortable, I really loved The Transcriptionist and highly recommend it, especially to readers who like a slightly off-beat but intelligent story. Also, fans of a New York setting and those who currently live in or have lived in New York City will probably love The Transcriptionist for the use of setting.

Fortitude:  Now I can eat you?

Patience: Down, boy.

BF:  *runs for the hills*

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Malarkey - Your weekly dosage of malarkey

I'm just going to dive right into the weekly post, today, as last week was pretty much "more of the same" -- a little reading, a lot of time spent working on organizing our home library, quite a bit of reviewing but mostly in "mini" form. 

Recent arrivals:

  • The Fever by Megan Abbott - sent by a friend
  • Dinosaur Farm by Frann Preston-Gannon - from Sterling Kids for review (there will be a giveaway of this one in September)
  • The January Dancer by Michael Flynn [not pictured] - via Paperback Swap. I think I put this on my wish list for Kiddo, possibly on the recommendation of a sci-fi-loving friend. It looks like his sort of book (and I'm interested, as well).

Last week's posts:

Last week's reads:

  • Dinosaur Farm by Frann Preston-Gannon
  • The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
  • Paramédico by Benjamin Gilmour

Set aside:

  • Dockers' Stories from the Second World War by Henry T. Bradford - I'll give this a second go, eventually, although I was not impressed with what little I read and the print is painfully small.

Currently reading:

Spillover by David Quammen - It's been a few days since I picked up Spillover, but I'll return to it tonight.  Paramédico was such an interesting book, particularly from a cultural perspective, that I was blasting right through it and actually decided to stop to finish The Story Hour then return to Paramédico the next day, just to drag out the fun.

Reading plans:

I thought I was completely finished with book tours but then I got a message from TLC Tours saying I have an upcoming tour date for Season of the Dragonflies by Sarah Creech, so I'll be reading that and my F2F book group's August selection, The Black Flower by Howard Bahr, this week.


This is a repeat since we've seen The Day of the Doctor twice, already, but we were in the mood for something reliable and Dr. Who is a bit of a comfort show. We streamed it, even though we own a copy. Next time I'll pop in the DVD. I could have used subtitles. Sometimes Matt Smith and David Tennant rattle off their lines a bit too fast for me.
The Escape Artist is a 3-part series that we began watching just because it stars David Tennant. Tennant plays a junior barrister, Will Burton, who has never lost a case. He is chosen to defend a man who is clearly guilty and confesses that he doesn't even like people. "I'm not a nice person," he tells Burton. 

The rest is spoiler territory but I will tell you that the first episode is so suspenseful that neither of us could bear to finish it on the night we streamed it. I was certain it was going to end badly. The next day, I decided to go ahead and finish the first episode. Huz refused to watch it with me and went to another room. Sure enough, it ended with a second horrific murder -- even worse than anticipated. We won't be watching the other two episodes.  The Escape Artist is as much horror as suspense; now that I know how gruesome it can get, I'm not interested in continuing.

That's about all the malarkey I've got, at the moment. I meant to make an announcement, last week, but didn't get around to typing it up. It's nothing major so I'll get to it when I get to it.

Happy New Week!

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fiona Friday - Daydreaming

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

More minis - Run, Don't Walk by A. Levine, The Color of Fire by A. Rinaldi, My Drunk Kitchen by Hannah Hart

In my continuing quest to catch up with myself, I give you a second round of mini reviews. One was sent by a friend, one unearthed during the library organization and one received from the publisher.

Run, Don't Walk by Adele Levine, P.T.  - published in May, Run, Don't Walk is the memoir of a physical therapist who worked at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center, now closed and combined with a naval medical facility. 

As a therapist at Walter Reed, Levine worked with military amputees, helping them adjust to life without one or more limbs and learn how to live with prosthetics.

I've seen photos of famous people visiting soldiers at Walter Reed and the equipment is well described so I had no trouble visualizing the work amputees do to recover, but there were a few things that did surprise me, chiefly the fact that the amputees' therapy room was designed like a fishbowl, so that people could walk past and peer inside. Celebrities came through specifically for the photo-opportunities (although one, in particular, was admired for not arriving with photographers).

Run, Don't Walk is fascinating, educational and will definitely make you admire the determination, humor and courage of amputees and the people who work with them. It's not just about the author and her job, it's about the individuals and their struggles, how humor and friendship heal, the kindness shown by those in the world outside the hospital in unexpected ways and how Walter Reed has been abused by people who aren't really in need of therapy, as well.

Highly recommended - A well-written memoir that will touch your heart and soul. The copy I read was an ARC sent by a friend.

The Color of Fire by Ann Rinaldi is a book that I happened across while sorting books, over the weekend. I've read other books by Rinaldi (A Break with Charity is the only one I can recall, off the top of my head) and knew they're quick reads so I flopped down on the library floor, began to read The Color of Fire without bothering to read the description and found that the story was about a historical event I'd never heard of. 

The Color of Fire takes place in 1741 and begins with a series of fires. Phoebe is a house slave who knows she has an easy life. Her master and mistress are kind to her and the other slaves and servants. Cuffee also works for the Philipse family. But, when he's seen running from the scene of a fire clearly set by arsonists, he's arrested. Mr. Philipse stands up for him but when he's accused a second time, there's nothing Philipse can do to help. A mob mentality has taken over the town and they're out for blood.

Based on a true story, the tale of how frightened slaves --many of whom were innocent but caught in a chain in which the promise of release persuaded individuals to name other alleged conspirators -- led to nearly two dozen deaths by hanging and burning at the stake. 

Recommended - A horrifying fictionalized account of how group frenzy much like that of the Salem Witch Trials led to the death of both innocent and guilty without regard to evidence or facts.  The Color of Fire has received some scathing reviews at Goodreads and most common complaint seems to be a distaste for the ending. I liked the ending. While I thought the book was predictable, I actually felt a little more comfortable having a good idea how it would end, even if the real-life outcome was appalling and gruesome. 

My Drunk Kitchen by Hannah Hart is a book I received from Harper !t for review and I'll just confess up front that I'm sticking this one in last place to bury it a bit. 

Hannah Hart is a YouTube sensation who began her "My Drunk Kitchen" videos on a night when she was bored. She had moved to New York City and was missing her friends back in California. It's a fake cooking show and I had never seen it but I figured there would be something of interest in it. Maybe a simple recipe or two that you could cook while drinking heavily? I don't drink -- I'm just a disinterested cook, so the easier, the better.

Unfortunately, all I got out of this book was a bit of goofy wisdom that I didn't need. The photos are smashing; I definitely give the book kudos for gorgeous presentation. And, I laughed at the "fortune" in Hart's version of fortune cookies (fortunes stuffed into croissants). To see if I was missing some crucial factor that made My Drunk Kitchen funny instead of just -- with apologies to the author, this is just how I feel -- a pointless waste of lovely, high-quality paper, I looked up her YouTube videos. Sigh. Not for me. I'm just the wrong audience.

I am doubly baffled by the fact that John Green wrote the foreword and Neil Gaiman blurbed it, both very positively. I just don't get the humor in this book.

Not for me, but check out Hannah Hart's "My Drunk Kitchen" videos at YouTube. If you think she's entertaining, definitely grab a copy. It's getting terrific ratings and clearly I'm not the right audience. The photography is stunning and there are bits of useful wisdom, I suppose -- nothing new to a world-weary middle-aged woman, but My Drunk Kitchen is uplifting in an offbeat way. Also, my 22-year-old thought her suggestion to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cut them into 9 squares and stick toothpicks in each square was a fabulous party suggestion! Umm . . . maybe we need some mother-son cooking lessons?

One odd note:  Hannah Hart has a tiny freckle on the tip of her nose that is visible in photos throughout the book but which was edited out of the cover photo. I found that mildly offensive. So she has a prominent (albeit faint) freckle? Leave it be. My opinion. Hart is very, very photogenic, freckle and all.

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Minis - My Custom Van by Michael Ian Black, Atlas (poems) by Katrina Vandenberg, Rescue by Anita Shreve

This is quite a varied set of books. None of them were sent to me for review. One was a gift, one purchased and I won My Custom Van in a Twitter giveaway.

I had no idea who Michael Ian Black even was, when I won My Custom Van -- I just quickly looked him up and thought, "Yeah, I could stand a laugh," and signed up for the drawing. 

Five years passed before I got around to reading My Custom Van and I have mixed feelings about it, but I knew I was going to at least like it when I read the "Foreword by Abraham Lincoln." Essays include "One Day, I'm Going to Open a Scented Candle Shoppe,"which reads like a short story with a surprise twist ending and, "Hey, David Sedaris -- Why Don't You Just Go Ahead and Suck It?", an essay that is surprisingly complimentary to its subject. "Taco Party" reads like a story written by a high school kid trying to show off his coolness by peppering the description of his upcoming party with foul language. My favorite line: "You can't f***ing swim in guacamole!"  

Like a lot of comedians, he can end up in bad language, sex-laden, yucky territory and that makes it easier for me to foist upon the son who asked for it in 2009. It just feels like it's meant for the younger crowd. I did, however, accidentally laugh a few times, so . . . Recommended for those who don't mind off-color humor.

Atlas (Poems) by Katrina Vandenberg was a Christmas gift from my wonderful blog buddy Chris and reading about how to read poetry must have helped because the first time I picked it up, I couldn't get into it. The second time, I absolutely loved it. 

Vandenberg was in a long-term relationship with a man who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion during the days before blood was screened for HIV. He was a hemophiliac. She was a Fulbright fellow in the Netherlands. These two major events -- the loss of a partner to AIDS and time spent in Netherlands -- informed her poetry with images of blood and tulips. 

There were a few poems that made little question marks hang over my head, but for the most part I found Vandenberg's poetry lucid and raw, about love, pain and beauty. I had to look up at least one Dutch painting she mentioned (always fun to have an excuse to go a-googling) and appreciated the learning experience. I will definitely be watching for more by Vandenberg. Recommended to poetry lovers. 

Rescue by Anita Shreve was, like the two books above, a book that I happened across while working on organizing my personal library. I had just finished reading The Paramedics within a week of finding Rescue and it seemed a fitting follow-up, a contemporary fiction read about a paramedic, the love of his life, and the daughter he fears he may lose to her mother's addiction.

When Peter pulled Sheila from the wreckage of a car, he could smell the alcohol, so he knew it was crazy (and, definitely unethical) to get involved with her. But, there was something about her that drew him back, again and again, till they ended up married with a baby. 

In the present day, his daughter Rowan is floundering. She's always been happy and well-adjusted but now she's acting out. The knowledge that her mother was an alcoholic leads her to numb her own fears by drinking heavily, herself. Can Peter reach Rowan before it's too late?

I read a few reviews of Rescue because I was curious what people thought about the paramedic action scenes. The book is Peter's story, about how he loved and lost his wife and has carefully raised his daughter but then realizes he is losing her, too. Because Peter is the hero, there are quite a few scenes from his working life. I loved that. Having just read a history of early EMS, I enjoyed reading updated scenes to see how things have changed. But, many readers had a problem with the abundant use of rescue scenes. They were in it for the usual Shreve fare and found his work uninteresting. My only problem with Rescue was the fact that I thought there were a few too many life-threatening accidents involving his family and Sheila was an unlikable character. Otherwise, I found the book entertaining.

Recommended if you like reading EMS action scenes with a touch of family angst. Atypical for Shreve but well-researched. I didn't like Sheila but I did admire Peter as a human, if not his choice in women, and I cared about Rowan. 

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dinosaur Opposites, Dinosaur Colors, Dinosaur Shapes and Dinosaur Numbers by Paul Stickland

Dinosaur Opposites, Dinosaur Colors, Dinosaur Shapes and Dinosaur Numbers
Written and Illustrated by Paul Stickland
Copyright 2010
Source: Sterling Children's Books

Dinosaur Opposites, Dinosaur Colors, Dinosaur Shapes and Dinosaur Numbers are slender books with gorgeous illustrations for preschoolers. I have mixed opinions of the books, which is a little surprising when you consider the fact that they're all by the same author.

Dinosaur Colors is a book that contains a single word -- the color -- per two-page spread.

I love the fact that the dinosaurs are not exclusively one color because, as you see in the spread of the color "blue" above, there is a little green goo dripping off one dinosaur's back and the other dinosaur's belly is pink. The fact that the word "blue" is written in the correct color makes it perfectly clear which color is the focus of each page spread, but then you can point at the other colors and say, "What color is his tummy?" or "See the tree? It's a different color, isn't it? Do you know what color?" So, there's plenty of room for interaction.

The same is true for Dinosaur Shapes. There is a highlighted shape for each two-page spread but a bit of crossover with a bold color to identify and then one or more shapes to find on the opposite page, where the dinosaurs are doing something: standing on squares, bouncing with a triangle in hand, holding up a rectangle.

The dinosaur holding a triangle also has triangular-shaped stripes on his back and sharp, triangular teeth to point out to a little one while the page spread about circles contains a spotted dinosaur.

Dinosaur Numbers is much the same as Dinosaur Shapes with a large number on the left-hand page and dinosaurs on the right. Note that there are two dinosaurs to go with the number two, but three bones so you have an opportunity to count something different and talk about the fact that the number of dinosaurs and the number of bones is not the same, the number two is red, and the two dinosaurs are not the same color:

I think Dinosaur Numbers, Dinosaur Colors and Dinosaur Shapes are all excellent. The concepts are clear and there's plenty to talk about beyond the the subject matter. So there's a surprising amount of learning material within each book. And, you can see the dinosaur pictures are absolutely adorable.

Unfortunately, Dinosaur Opposites is a completely different story. I neglected to take an interior photo and now my photo-editing software is freaking out on me, again. So, you'll just have to trust me when I say the illustrations in Dinosaur Opposites are mystifying rather than precise in their representation of concepts. The page spread that shows "fast" and "slow", for example, shows two different types of dinosaurs running. The slow dinosaur is a bulky triceratops and the fast dinosaurs (there are three of the same type) are leaner. But, all are running and it's not particularly clear who is running faster. In fact, the "slow" dinosaur is in the lead.

Three recommended, one not recommended - It feels a little odd to say three out of four books in the same series are recommended and one not, but I think Dinosaur Numbers, Dinosaur Colors and Dinosaur Shapes are all excellent little books for preschoolers, yet Dinosaur Opposites is simply too vague. Having said that, I will backtrack on myself and note that "lumpy" versus "spiky" is pretty clear and Kiddo says "good" and "bad" is works for him because one dinosaur looks like he wants to eat the other and the "good" dinosaur has an, "Oh, sh*t" look on his face. I'd advise flipping through Dinosaur Opposites (or searching for interior photos online) before buying, but the rest are terrific little books with charming illustrations and plenty to talk about beyond the subject matter.

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Malarkey - Of Dinosaurs and Curious People and Flaming Colors

Today's subject line refers to last week's reading material.  Read on and you'll find that I clearly had more fun reading than writing, last week, but there were mitigating circumstances, like that forgotten anniversary (which ended up with a nice anniversary dinner), the Kiddo's continuing presence (he's getting sick of us, but he's still here) and then we had a weekend of storms that kept me off the computer -- noisy, cat-frightening, electricity-killing storms.  And, now my printer is not working. There's always something not working. What's up with that? Is it modern life in a nutshell, the concept that "something must not work at all times"?

Since it was storming, I spent a lot of time working on the library, this weekend. For a brief moment in time, the library floor was visible (so I took a picture). But, then I emptied about 8 more boxes of books and the floor has disappeared. It is, in fact, quite hazardous. I discovered that it's time to quit shelving books when you trip on the floor piles. After I failed to heed the first warning that I was worn out, I bashed my face on a cabinet door and then ran into a door frame. That was enough to send me skittering off to bed.

Recent arrivals:

  • Traditional Foods of Britain: An Inventory by Laura Mason with Catherine Brown - Purchased secondhand online
  • Storm Surge by Adam Sobel - From Harper for review
  • Village of Secrets by Caroline Moorehead - from Harper for review
  • King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild - Sent by very generous friend who went out and bought a copy for me after I expressed interest during a Facebook conversation.
  • The Darkest Hour by Tony Schumacher - from William Morrow for review

Last week's posts . . . last week was a blogging dud:

Last week's reads (most of the dinosaur books were rereads because I didn't add them to my calendar, the first time - always a mistake):

  • My Custom Van by Michael Ian Black
  • Dinosaur Numbers by Paul Stickland
  • Dinosaur Colors by Paul Stickland
  • Dinosaur Opposites by Paul Stickland
  • Dinosaur Shapes by Paul Stickland
  • Why Did T-Rex Have Short Arms? and other questions about dinosaurs by Melissa Stewart
  • The Future for Curious People by Gregory Sherl
  • The Color of Fire by Ann Rinaldi

Set aside:

Whispers of Love (in Blessed Assurance, a 3-book collection) by Lyn Cote - 35 pages in, nothing seemed to be happening. The storyline still sounds interesting but I think I'll pass this one on to my romance-crazy best friend, since I'm in the process of culling the books.

Currently reading:

  • The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
  • Spillover by David Quammen
  • That book about dockers' stories (not impressed, so far -- it may end up being a DNF if something wonderful doesn't happen, soon)

Movies (the first one is the shocker):

Something you should know about me to understand why it's shocking that I watched The Lego Movie: I hate cartoon movies with a passion. That excludes favorite childhood movies, of course (they were better, back then, if you ask me). Point being, I just don't watch them. If the guys put on a cartoon movie, I leave the room. I figured The Lego Movie was basically going to be a cartoon movie in style, meaning the basic stupidity of storyline. Honestly, I just can't stomach those gushy, romantic-but-with-a-strong-heroine movies of recent years. 

The guys would not relent. They didn't drag me to the living room but they were pretty stubborn. They paused the movie at the opening credits and waited till I showed up. They made snacks and wouldn't let me share until I sat down on the sofa. Evil tactics work! I was hungry. Five minutes in and I was hooked. What a clever, hilarious movie. I loved it. 

The next day, I tried to get the guys to watch a movie of my choosing. I failed dismally. If only I'd thought to feed them. My choice was Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the 1956 version. I wasn't alive in 1956, in case you're wondering. I'm not that old. Of the many versions of the Jack Finney classic, the 1956 version is my personal favorite but, to be honest, I don't even remember any of the others, except . . . wasn't Leonard Nimoy in one of them? I'll have to look. 

I've only read Invasion of the Body Snatchers once, but I do recall the ending and it's quite different from the ending of the movie. However, I do think the ending to this particular movie is a good one -- chilling, yet hopeful.  

The cats and I enjoyed it. Periodically, one of my humans would walk through the room. The husband said, "That's the best version," and walked on. Kiddo made some sort of grunting noise when I tried to lure him and hid in his room. He's not a fan of black-and-white movies so it would have been a hard sell. Next time, there will be food. And, now I want to reread the book, of course.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan has always been one of my least favorite of the old Star Trek movies, but Kiddo is persuasive (and there was probably some sort of snack involved, again -- I don't recall). I told Kiddo I've never liked The Wrath of Khan. He said he didn't care; my presence was required or some such nonsense.

Oddly, I ended up loving it. I particularly hate the part when Chekov screams piteously as Khan drops that nasty, scorpion-like creature into his ear and I mentioned that to Kiddo. He handed me one of the zappers. I was prepared to mute that bit and then I started daydreaming and the next thing I knew we'd passed it without any audible wails. I think Kiddo must have fast-forwarded past the scene. It helped. I enjoyed the movie as I never have. 

We didn't watch the Director's Cut. That's just the best image I could find, at left.

Next up will be dinosaur books. This is a weather-dependent statement. I've started but not finished the posts and hoped to get them all wrapped up and pre-posted, this weekend. Best-laid plans and all that. There will also be an Important Announcement, this week. And, then we'll see what happens. Storms are predicted for the entire week and weather being the fickle thing that it is, I can't say whether or not it will wreck the blogging week. The plants are certainly appreciating the rain, though, and it makes for good reading weather. I'm happy. Are you happy? The Pope wants you to be happy and so do I. 

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Things I forgot to remember and a few days off

Yes, folks, it's true. I've been married so long that I forgot my anniversary was this week. With that and the fact that Kiddo is about to head home this weekend in mind, I've decided to take a few days off. When I return, there will be dinosaur books to talk about!  I planned to post about the dinosaur books last weekend, then this week, then Tuesday was busy and . . . oh, yeah, Wednesday a tour post was due (at least I didn't forget that for long -- calendars are very helpful things). I've warned husband that after I've taken a day or two or three off, I'm going to have to dive in and tackle some of those reviews. He shrugged. That was the correct response, in case you're wondering. 

This will not be a lengthy break, just a few days off to be present with family. Back soon!

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

This is the Water by Yannick Murphy (DNF)

This is the Water by Yannick Murphy
Copyright 2014
Harper Perennial - General fiction
Source: Harper Collins for TLC Book Tours

This is the water, lapping the edge of the pool, coming up in small waves as children race through it.  This is the swim mom named Dinah wearing the team shirt with a whale logo on it, yelling at her daughter Jessie to swim faster. This is Jessie who cannot hear Dinah because Jessie is in the water. Jessie is singing a song to herself. She is singing, "This old man, he played one. He played knick knack on his thumb." Dinah is red in the face, standing in the stands. Dinah moves her hand in the air as if to help hurry her daughter along. Behind the starting blocks the water comes up over the edge of the pool and splashes the parents who are timing on deck.

~p. 1 of This is the Water (first paragraph)

This is the Water was a DNF (Did Not Finish) read, unfortunately. The Call by Yannick Murphy was actually one of my absolute favorite books of the year in 2011, so I had high hopes.

This is the Water is a book with characters involved in a private swim team. One of the swimmers is murdered, one of the parents thinks her husband is having an affair, another finds herself attracted to someone else's husband. This is the Water interested me primarily because I loved The Call so much, but I also was a swim mom for many years and in spite of some painful politics that made a mess of things for a time, I still miss that world. I thought it would be fun to immerse myself in the reading of a book that described an activity I really loved being involved in. I didn't particularly care about the murder aspect, just the world of swimming.

Unfortunately, it was the author's choice to write This is the Water in 2nd person present that drove me away. I made it 65 pages. Had the book been told in 3rd person or even 1st person, either past or present, I think it would have worked fine for me.  I was interested in the characters and what was going to happen to them. The fact of the matter is that the storytelling was simply too clunky and exhausting. Every time I put the book down, I found myself sighing with relief. The final time I set it down, I realized that I could happily walk away from the story without ever picking it up again. It was simply too draining. So, I stopped. I usually go by the 50-page rule but, again, I did think the characters and the idea were good ones. It was just not a manner of storytelling that I could bear, although I can appreciate the idea -- the experimentation and creativity of trying a new style.

If you like the writing in that first paragraph (from the published print version) and don't find the repetition as tiring as I did, I definitely recommend that you go for it. I skimmed the reviews at Goodreads and found that I'm in the minority; This is the Water is getting pretty high ratings. And, although this particular book did not work for me, I will definitely read Yannick Murphy's work, again.

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Monday Malarkey - The usual stuff, without photo due to hinky computer

I've got the laptop on my lap so I'm not totally without options, here, but the laptop is new and has no photo software, so no photo of a pretty book stack, today. We had a busy weekend which included a long-winded, noisy lightning storm or I might have pre-posted a thing or two before the desktop flipped out. No such luck. My sidebar is also well and truly outdated. I'll work on that as soon as I'm able.

Recent Arrivals (currently supporting my laptop -- excuse me while I dive below to look at titles):

  • Burn by Julianna Baggott - sent by friend
  • Shopping for Porcupine by Seth Kantner - via Paperback Swap
  • My Drunk Kitchen by Hannah Hart - from Harper !t
  • Food in England by Dorothy Hartley - purchased secondhand
  • Monster Party by Annie Bach, and
  • Calvin, Look Out! by Berne and Bendis - both unsolicited from Sterling Children's Books
  • Spillover by David Quammen - purchased

I also received a small pile of WWII books that I purchased but they've already been shelved (this weekend was another big "work on the library" weekend).

Last week's posts:

Last week's reads: 

  • Run, Don't Walk by Adele Levine, P. T.
  • Monster Party by Annie Bach
  • Calvin, Look Out! by Jennifer Berne and Keith Bendis
  • My Drunk Kitchen by Hannah Hart
  • If You Ask Me by Betty White

Currently reading:

  • Spillover by David Quammen
  • My Custom Van by Michael Ian Black
  • Whispers of Love by Lyn Cote

Set aside:

  • Sextant by David Barrie - I intend to return to Sextant but after misplacing it for nearly a week, I decided I'll just retire it for the moment and reread the first chapters when I pick it back up.
  • This is the Water by Yannick Murphy - DNF for good. This is a tour book so I'll post about it on Wednesday.

There are some unusual titles in my current and recent reads, all of which I can chalk up to the library organization. As I've cleaned and purged, a few have caught my eye and I stopped to read a few pages then kept right on reading. It's one of the hazards of organizing a library. The Betty White book, If You Ask Me, was a gift from my son in 2011.  I remember putting it on my master bedroom shelf, thinking I'd slide it in between ARCs when I had a minute. And, then, of course 3 years passed. As it turned out, the book is a quick read with random thoughts about White's career, her passion for animals and ecology, being old, life in general. It took an hour or two to read, max. I could have slipped it in easily at any time. Live and learn.

My Custom Van by Michael Ian Black has a similar story but it was a Twitter win. When I received the book, my eldest came for a visit and told me he's a fan, so he'd like to have it when I finished, then it stayed on the shelf and eventually ended up boxed for 2 years following our move. I'm about halfway (would have finished last night, had I not stopped to read the Betty White book) and will send it on, this week, if my son still wants it. When I flipped to the copyright date, I was more than a little stunned. 2008.  2008??!!!  It could have been released later because it's a paperback that might have had a hardback release, first, but still . . . at least 5 years have passed since the book arrived. I feel stunningly ephemeral, after thinking about that. Seriously, 2008???!!!! How did that much time pass so quickly?

The Lyn Cote book was another personal library find. It's actually one of 3 in collection called Blessed Assurance. I have no idea where I got Blessed Assurance but I began reading Whispers of Love and didn't want to put it down or it would have gone into the donation bag.

Spillover is a book about how most illnesses are transferred from animal to human, including the search for the origin of ebola and past outbreaks (very timely). From reading Spillover, I'm already under the impression that the anti-vaccine movement is a lot more of a danger to us than ebola, for several reasons I won't go into. The current ebola outbreak will render parts of Spillover outdated, but the history obviously remains valid.  It's a fascinating read.

TV and movies:

Kiddo has been home for a week and he has this tendency to take over the TV. Fortunately, he does turn to MeTV when Adam-12 comes on and he usually sticks around for Emergency!  Since I watch Emergency! while exercising, there've been times he and I have hollered through the walls ("The key word is camping -- they need to look for a tick!") or heard each other laughing while we're watching on the two TVs in adjoining rooms. No movies. Maybe next week.

That's about all the malarkey I've got, for now.  Happy Monday!

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.